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Defining Identities: Ability & Disability – A Case Study debate @SWSCmedia


Last February in an article entitled: “Obese woman demanding 50 hours care a week ‘went to pop concert‘” the article’s subheading read:

A morbidly obese woman who says she needs help getting out of bed in the morning managed to make it to see her favourite boy band – The Wanted – in concert, a top judge has heard.

The article goes on:

The woman says she needs up to 50 hours-a-week of care, but Plymouth Council disagrees – insisting her worst enemy is her own “dependency” on the state.

Whilst recognising that the woman suffers from a personality disorder brought on by a traumatic childhood and bereavement, the council insists she can do far more for herself than she believes and too much publicly-funded care will actively harm her.

At London’s High Court council lawyers acknowledge the genuineness of her “subjective” beliefs about the level of care she needs. But they argued:

  • Despite her plea that she cannot use a washing machine or tumble drier without help, she is able to operate “far more complex equipment” – including a computer and games console.
  • She has proved herself able to buy alcohol, cigarettes and IT equipment – whilst claiming that “extreme paranoia” prevents her going out to buy food unaccompanied.
  • Her difficulties in getting out of bed are due to a “lack of motivation”
  • She managed to attend, by herself, a “The Wanted” concert in April last year, whilst claiming that she could not walk to her local shops or go out in public without a chaperone.
  • To tackle her obesity, she can “make choices” about her own diet and buy the low fat, healthy, ready meals recommended by her “weight management” programme.
  • She has become “emotionally and psychologically dependent” on council-funded support and, based on the advice of a consultant psychiatrist, she needs to “take responsibility for her own life and break her reliance on the support of others”.
  • Whilst agreeing that she “requires treatment” for her “psychological” problems, too much care and support from others for her “perceived needs” will be “counter-therapeutic” and “detrimental to her well-being”.

Despite those claims, the woman’s lawyers are bidding to convince the High Court the council is legally obliged to lay on a full care regime for her, including support staff to help her wash and dress herself and cook her meals.

Her legal team says the council must also provide staff to accompany her when out shopping, when she goes to the gym or “weight management” classes – and even when “she goes to a disco on Friday nights”.

Her barrister, Irena Sabic, said she has a history of self-harm and drug overdoses and her care needs were recognised by the council until May last year, when “direct payments” – enabling her to live in a supported home – were withdrawn.

So paranoid that she cannot take a bath, without a “trusted” person keeping watch outside the door, she said the woman at one point did not wash herself for months on end.

“In desperate need of support”, the court heard she finds it difficult to get up in the morning, “whether or not she has been drinking”; can’t cook or clean for herself and cannot go out in public without enduring extreme anxiety.

Miss Sabic accused the council of failing to lawfully assess the woman’s community care needs and provide the help she so urgently requires to have a reasonable quality of life.

And she disputed council arguments that the woman “requires no care services whatsoever, that she’s over-reliant and it’s a question of choice”.      (Read the full article here)

Therefore, in today’s debate we wish to explore some fundamental questions and principles in relation to the concepts of: “entitlement”, “disability”, and “social justice”, including:

We propose the use of the term Diverseability rather than disability, and would like to explore its meaning and conceptualisation?

What are the implications of being a diversely able person and that of being a “disabled person”? Are there any differences?

What are the roles and responsibilities of government and society toward people with diverseability?

Are there varying degrees of diverseability? and do they require different approaches?

Is the above example a case of individual responsibility? and that the person involved should take responsibility for her life (e.g. diet, eat less, etc. as suggested in the article) or is it our social responsibility to support this person through her difficulties and to ensure she can enjoy a reasonable quality of life?

There was an article in the Guardian on the UK riots one year on… entitled “A year on: Tottenham still struggles to shake off the legacy of the riots.” Given the degree of deprivation and various types of exclusion in different parts of the capital and throughout the country, is it fair to award 50 hours of support to the person mentioned in the Telegraph article?

Therefore, we wish to explore these and other relevant questions.in today’s debate @SWSCmedia.

Join us and share your views on “Ability, Disability, and Diverseability: Defining Identities – Case Study” @SWSCmedia on Sunday (5 August 2012) 6:00 PM BST (UK) / 1:00 PM EDT (Eastern Time USA).

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